Recent rain causes beetles to emerge on campus

Wynne Davis

Creatures of the night, black ground beetles have become a summer norm on campus as they have surfaced to feed and breed.
UT pest control technician Candace Legge said her office started receiving calls approximately 20 days ago requesting the beetles be exterminated, and even she was surprised by the amount of beetles on campus.

“I’ve been in pest control for 20 years, and I’ve never seen these guys in the numbers we’re having right now,” Legge said. “But we’ve gotten a lot of rain this spring, where it’s heavy rain and has saturated the ground. A heavy downpour will make them emerge a lot faster.”

Janette Chairez, human development and family sciences junior, said she first noticed the night crawlers three weeks ago, while walking from campus to McDonald’s.

“They were everywhere,” Chairez said. “Like getting right outside of Jester all the way to McDonald’s … They were on top of bushes and all over the driveway [at McDonald’s].”

Chairez, who is working as an orientation adviser this summer, said she does not enjoy the beetles’ sudden presence.

“I got super grossed out,” Chairez said. “I also wondered, ‘Where the hell did they all come from?’ and I wish they could
be exterminated.”

According to Legge, these particular ground beetles are native to Texas and are always living beneath the campus, but the heavy rain Austin has received lately have brought them to the surface.

“A lot of rain in the spring caused them to emerge to look for better shelter,” Legge said. “Basically, they live real far in the soil — a kind of crack-and-crevice type bug.” Because of the ongoing drought in Texas, students who have been on campus during previous summers may not have encountered the beetles.

“I probably have [seen them] before because they don’t look unnatural or anything,” civil engineering senior Christina Wait said. “But I’ve never really noticed them that much until recently.”

While the beetles are somewhat of a nuisance to those who find them in their offices or those unfortunate enough to step on one and suffer the echoing crunch, these beetles are harmless, Legge said.

“They don’t do anything,” Legge said. “They’re just kind of an invasive insect that we’re going to have to deal with right now.”

With a lifespan of 10 to 30 days, Legge said the heat will cause them to die faster than if the campus were sprayed, and if people turn their lights off, especially near the ground, the beetles are less likely to be attracted to buildings. 

“[Keeping lights off would] probably be the best way to keep them from invading the buildings right now,” Legge said. “We’re almost at the end of the cycle, but it’s going to be a hit or miss with us this year because, if we keep getting the rain, they’re going to keep breeding.”